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Czech first deputy PM to leave cabinet for alleged corruption - extended

Interview

Jiri Cunek, Czech first deputy prime minister and head of the junior ruling Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), announced on Thursday that he will leave the coalition government next Wednesday. Czech president appoints interim education minister.

Cunek said that he decided to resign as first deputy prime minister and local development minister after it surfaced that Supreme State Attorney Renata Vesecka wants to reopen the case of his alleged corruption. “I’ve decided to leave the posts of deputy prime minister and local development minister at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday in order to make the investigation independent for all of you,” Cunek said at an extraordinary press conference.

Cunek announced his decision one day after Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek called on him to resign unless he refuted the suspicion of abusing welfare benefits in the 1990s. According to Cunek, he did not intend to give up the post of KDU-CSL chairman and would also remain as senator.

The Christian Democrats are expected to discuss a successor to Cunek at a meeting of their national conference next Tuesday. Cunek appeared in high politics a year ago. As the mayor of the north Moravian town Vsetin he became known to the wide public due to the eviction of Romanies from their houses in Vsetin last year. Then he won the Senate elections in the Vsetin constituency, and the following month became KDU-CSL chairman.

In February, he became deputy prime minister and local development minister in Topolanek’s government. He has been subjected to the calls for resignation for the entire period in the government due to suspected corruption and controversial statements about Czech Romanies. He resigned when his corruption scandal re-surfaced and in addition the suspicion recently appeared that he abused social benefits.

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said Thursday he would ask the president to appoint Bursik interim minister as the Greens have struggled to find a replacement for Dana Kuchtova, who announced her resignation from the top education ministry job in late September. Kuchtova, who formally handed over her resignation on October 3, left over EU funding squabbles. Junior coalition partners, the Christian Democrats, ousted her for delays in the drawing down of EU funds for scientific research. The Christian Democrats are looking for a new minister as well. (people.com.cn, m&c.com)

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